St. Paul, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) --- Former UMD Bulldog Justin Fontaine spent all of last season in the American Hockey League, but he said this week he's staying prepared for when his shot comes to play in the NHL.
"You learn little things, and you take those out on the ice every time," Fontaine said. "Just get better. You've got to work at it to get better. You can't just go out and expect it, so we'll put this week of work in and continue to get better throughout the summer."
This week is the Minnesota Wild development camp, of which Fontaine has been a participant each of the past three years.
The former Bulldog played in 73 games last season with the Houston Aeros, totaling 16 goals and 39 assists. His play was good enough that the Minnesota coaching staff strongly considered rewarding him with NHL minutes.
"Fontaine had a good year in Houston last year, and he was mentioned on some call-ups last year," Minnesota goaltending coach and former Bulldog Bob Mason said. "He was close, but didn't get the call. I know the coaching staff down there likes him. He's a creative player and can make things happen."
"There's a lot of skill around here right now and a lot of good, upcoming players," Fontaine said. "It's good to see."
Having played his college hockey at UMD, Fontaine came to the Wild organization with strong ties to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA).
So did several of his development camp teammates, and so did two of the team's newest and biggest names in Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.
"It's obviously a good league," Fontaine said. "A lot of players have come out of that league, and it's just good to see these guys move on and keep moving up in hockey."
The former UMD star spent four full seasons with the Bulldogs, totaling 62 goals and 102 assists in 159 games during that span.